Two days after 5,000 citizens from around the state rallied against tax increases and growing government spending, the House Health and Human Services Committee heard a bill that would send a $1 billion tax measure to the voters. Today the committee passed the bill 8-7.
House Bill 2377 would ask voters for a sales tax increase by 0.3 percent from January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2012.
Rep. Maureen Walsh, a member of the committee voting against the proposal, said she was frustrated that during a recession the only option before the Legislature is more tax and fee increases.
"The citizens who came here to speak against tax increases did not mince their words, and they knew exactly what they were saying," said Walsh, R-Walla Walla. "Everyone’s struggling right now, and that includes taxpayers. Middle-income families will pay the highest price. Families are being forced to live within their means, and so should government.
"The gorilla in the room is, ‘What happens if the voters turn down a tax increase?’" Walsh asked in committee. "The fact that we’re relying on a bailout from the taxpayers is irresponsible budgeting. We can take care of these folks who need it the most. It’s called prioritizing.
"This tax increase will only help us temporarily, but we have a budget structure right now that spends beyond the state’s means," Walsh said. "I’m afraid in two years we’ll be right back where we are today."
The prime sponsor of the bill noted at the end of the hearing that if the voters do not pass the tax increase, ‘people will die.’
"If we really think that people will die without this tax increase, then the Legislature has neglected its duty to protect the most vulnerable in our state," Walsh said. "No one agrees more that we have a moral obligation to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves. But if we punt this to the voters, and they say ‘no,’ we’re going to end up back here in a worse situation next year. We really ought to be looking for a better way to carve some money out of this budget to meet those needs."
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